INTERVIEW

AXE BATTLER

My first interview I ever made. This band made me impressed by their sheer passion for the traditions of the early Heavy Metal. JP Battler had quite a few interesting things to say so read on!

The initial days of Axe Battler reach back to 2009. Can you recall what made you creating this band and was the NWOBHM-styled music considered as the main band’s direction right from the start?

I had ideas from a long time, about 3 years before forming the band. I’ve always been a big fan of traditional heavy metal, my favorite bands have been always been related to traditional metal so it was very natural for me starting a heavy metal project that later would become a band and happily I met Chris who shared the same vision I had.

I know that for most of you Axe Battler wasn’t the first experience playing Metal as there appear names like Bad Joke, Toxic Blood or Fastter. Have those bands much in common sound-wise with what you do nowadays in Axe Battler? Was it difficult to shift into playing this ancient style even though this is what you are heavily into?

The main root of our previous / stable bands is that all of us are into traditional metal. I mean, in Bad Joke we played a heavy/speed metal very influenced by bands like WARRANT, RUNNING WILD, EVIL, the problem was that my ideas were not taken by the guys so I had to form my own stuff. Chris who has been the other founder member has a lot of heavy metal influences in his playing, even when Fastter is a thrash metal band you can feel a traditional heavy metal vibe in their songs and in their playing style and we are very big heavy metal fans so it wasn’t hard for us to get along together.

What bands would you say have grabbed your attention within the Heavy Metal realm at first? Was it the typical initiation of getting to know Metallica, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, etc. or you found the early 80’s British Undergound with bands such as Tygers of Pan Tang, Tysondog, Battleaxe, Satan or for example Sparta pretty soon? I’m also curious what non-British but still traditional Heavy Metal bands would you cite as your main influences? Am I right that one of them will be a Danish band and I don’t mean here Mercyful Fate?

I speak personally on this one, I remember I started listening a lot at the very beggining bands like the ones you mention (METALLICA, SLAYER, IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST) but then I started digging more and more and discovered through the years bands like V8, RUNNING WILD, GRIM REAPER, ANGEL WITCH, along others... Main influences I would say: IRON MAIDEN, SAXON, ANGEL WITCH. JAGUAR, SATAN, MEDIEVAL STEEL, OMEN, LIEGE LORD, JAG PANZER, CLOVEN HOOF along many maaaaaaany others! And if you mean WITCH CROSS, yes! Very influenced by them too!

It seems that right from the beginning you started heavily working on your songs as it only took one year for Axe Battler to officially release 4 originals and a WITCH CROSS cover “Fight the Fire” in the form of “Wrath of My Steel” MCD. Did you have some ideas or ready parts of the songs prior to the band’s foundation or you’ve spent many hours in the rehearsal dungeons? All the songs are so well-crafted that I imagine it took a bit before they gained the final forms.

As I said previously, I had some ideas written as guitar and bass lines and some others were in our minds and took their final form with many rehearsals at Chris place, we worked a lot in them, about half a year I think the results were good enough to go into the studio and record them for the mini album.

Your first release appeared on a CD format. Were you even considering releasing a demo tape or you thought the Axe Battler’s music is good enough to skip this first (for many bands) step? Do you like to listen demo tapes yourself?

We considered that the sound was quite good so we decided to call it a „mini album” rather than a demo, but there were some people that thought it was a demo as it came out first on tape and then CD. Of course I like listening demo tapes, especially when newcomers take their first steps in the metal battle and have plenty of them in my collection.

“The Wrath of My Steel” was released by MetalMania Records. How far from the truth would I be saying that this is your own record label? If I am right what can you say about other bands on MetalMania rooster such as WITCHTOWER or MOSHINGUN?

Yeah, it was my label along with METAL GRAVE’s bassplayer and long time friend Christopher. We decided to release it on our own because we didn’t get a good offer from the interested labels, so it was the „kick off” to our small underground label. MOSHINGUN is one of the best thrash metal acts in Chile nowadays and Christopher previously spoke with them before we started the label, you surely can expect well crafted thrash metal with a little heavy metal vibe. WITCHTOWER surprised me a lot as they keep the flame burning for the glorious days of the NWOBHM and they fitted perfectly in our label so that’s why we released their MCD.

I need to admit that this particular release really hit me with its straight-forward Heavy Metal reminding me of many obscure NWOBHM releases not only music-wise but also the sound was not so much out of place if compared to especially many 7” vinyls from that era. Are you still happy with the sound of this MCD?

Truth is that the final mix sounds pretty good but you will never be 100% satisfied with your recordings, but it’s above average for sure. Our intention was pretty clear and you got it, to sound straight-to-your-face, raw, vintage with a high dose of energy.

Your mini-debut was limited to 500 copies. I remember back then receiving from you 12 copies which were sold out within 2 weeks! How fast did you get rid off your copies? Were you surprised of the interest the maniacs show to a completely new band?

Hahaha yeah, of course I remember our trade! I’m glad you still don’t have our cd’s with 20 inches of dust. It means we are not so bad on what we do! I think the whole batch was sold out in about 8-10 months so it was pretty cool for us, especially to see that the main interest came from Europe. Of course we were surprised to achieve that, for a small underground band was great to receive interviews from underground mags such as Snakepit, Steel For an Age, Realm Of Shades, Tombs, Headbangers, etc and to exchange mails with bangers that were so far away from us and were so interested in what we were doing was a bit unreal for us.

Was this release helpful in getting some gig offers in your area or were you playing quite a lot even without any official material being out? I know that Santiago de Chile is quite big for extreme Metal. I wonder how about the traditional Heavy Metal? Have you noticed an increasing number of maniacs wearing denim, leather and Axe Battler t-shirts?

Our first gig was after releasing our debut MCD. It was quite surprising for many people that a band that played heavy metal could look and sound with attitude and aggressiveness, it was shocking for them as you said before we come from a land that is ruled by extreme metal. We gained respect through the years and share the stage with death metal bands, black metal bands, thrash metal bands and so on.

By the way, how would you describe an average Axe Battler’s live performance? Do you use any special equipment or just let the music speak? How much the Chilean Metalheads get involved in under-the-stage activities when you’re not a major act?

We like to wear spikes and leather and having our banner behind our backs, we look like a heavy metal band without getting dressed like clowns. Bangers sing our songs and raise their fists in the air. I think we have great feedback in general from the local audience.

Keeping on popularity of the right Heavy Metal topic, I will ask you if you see any other Chilean bands within this particular style that you are fond of. What do you think of BATTLERAGE, METAL GRAVE or IRON SPELL? Maybe you could name-drop other bands worth to mention?

The bands you mention are all good in their style, I would tell you to check what ACERO LETAL is doing, same as LUCIFER’S HAMMER and THUNDER LORD, great acts delivering traditional heavy metal!

Are you trying to keep yourselves up to date on what’s going on within the Metal realm (both traditional and more extreme) or you rather focus on your band with not much of free time to spare for the Heavy Metal Hunting?

Of course! We are always digging in new and old bands, right now I’m listening a lot to IRON DOGS, METALIAN, IRON CURTAIN, TERMINAL, STONE DAGGER, SACRAL RAGE, MIDNIGHT and so on. I can say that the underground metal scene is healthy and better than ever. It’s great to see bands with conviction and doing things in the honest and right way! We all collect metal in form of CD’s, tapes, vinyls, fanzines!

Heavy Forces Records were resposible for making an LP version of “The Wrath of My Steel”. How did you get in contact with this German label which is specialized in vinyls? Was it important for you to make your tracks available on the black wax? Are you yourselves vinyl collectors?

The owner of the label has been in contact with us since the mini album was released on tape and he was always interested in working together for a release and we finally did it. It has 3 special bonus tracks. Of course having our mini album on vinyl was important, the vinyl in terms of sound quality and having a full scale artwork is the best format for metal music. I could say I like a lot vinyls and have plenty of them in my collection, it’s like a disease! You can’t stop buying/trading em!

On the LP version of “The Wrath of My Steel” there are only 4 songs included taken from the MCD (excluding „Fight the Fire”). Was it your or the label’s idea not to include this WitchCross cover-tune on the vinyl version? Are you still satisfied with this particular cover?

It was our decision, to make the tape and CD version something unique and special. The cover sounds ok but my voice sounds a bit fucked up so I’m not 100% satisfied with it.

One track was excluded from the Side Axe of the 12” vinyl but instead of this the fans were treated with 3 brand new songs to fill up the B side of the new release. Were those two originals plus the Tysondog cover recorded for this LP version exclusively? Do you have any tracks recorded in the past that didn’t appear on any release?

Yeah, we wanted to do somehing special for the vinyl version and also have a preview for what was going on with the band, so instead of releasing this tracks in a 7”EP, we decided to record them for this 12” vinyl. You can’t find this versions in any other release, just the re-recorded version of “Endless Battles” for the full length. We don’t have any left overs, we always used everything we had on our releases.

“Hammerhead” by Tysondog is the opener for their “Beware of the Dog” LP. Whose idea was that this track would be perfect to sum up your album? I’m asking because most of bands, regardless the style of Metal they play, choose to cover “safe” tracks which are more likely to ring the bell of an average Metal fan. But you’ve decided to record “Hammerhead” and not for example “A Phantom of the Opera” (a great track by the way). Are you trying to be original or simply you aim in presenting your more obscure influences?

I think this is to pay tribute and recognize bands that couldn’t make it bigger but still sound great and have more guts and balls than many of the bigger acts. It’s kinda making justice for these more „unknown” metal heroes. We like a lot Tysondog and it’s one of our direct influences. Recording a Maiden, Priest or a Saxon cover for example would be the easy way and thousands of bands already did that, so why would we do the same? No way!

Am I right that after the deal with Heavy Forces Records you became famous headlining most of the South American open air festivals? But seriously, have you noticed any bigger interest in Axe Battler after your debut vinyl appearance?

Hahaha no, we just played local shows and shared the stage with international acts such as MIDNIGHT and OMEN among others. It’s hard to play outside our boundaries as the distances in South America are bigger than in Europe where you can take a car and in 4-5 hours you crossed to another country. We had lots of requests from outside for buying our music and merch, and some proposals for playing in Europe but it’s a bit hard for us for money/time issues.

Do you think Axe Battler’s music should be limited? Do you think that if for example 500 Metal fans will own any of your releases, that’s big enough number of potential fans and you don’t aim to increase that number?

JP: For the style we play and the base of people that likes our music we don’t see a massive CD production of 10000 copies. It wouldn’t be useful to have 8000 copies with inches of dust in our houses haha! I think 1500-2000 between CD, tape and vinyl is a decent number of copies for distribution.

It took 5 years for the band to come up with the self-titled album consisting of 10 songs. Are you happy with the co-operation with Evil Confrontation Records? Could you share some more details concerning your new record label?

Yeah, it’s being great in general. First than anything they payed our studio and half of the artwork and I don’t know how many record labels do that nowadays... I could say it’s been a great experience for us to finally record our full length and I think we chose wisely for our record label, so I could say we are pretty happy with the relation we have with Evil Confrontation.

I know how expensive are flights between South America and Europe but do you consider visiting the continent of your main musical influences in order to enchant the Heavy Metal maniacs with your old-fashioned ;-) music?

Would be amazing and it’s a pending task for us. We had interest from Spain, Italy and Germany to bring our metal attack to European lands, but has been a bit hard due to working/studying issues besides the high costs that involves travelling from South America to Europe. Anyway, we will do it, maybe in 2016 (maybe we can arrange something in the UK?) hahaha!

Returning to Axe Battler’s debut album, I’ve got a simple question. Are you happy with the final result? Do you have some ideas of what could be done better in the future?

Yeah for sure there are always some things to improve, but overall we are pretty satisfied with the work we did in the studio and the final mix and mastering. In the future we’ll materialize some musical ideas we have in mind, maybe add some more developed riffs and chords into our sound but for sure it will follow the ancient path of metal the way it must be, that’s for sure.

I know it’s hard to judge of something that you live into without an external focus but as a European Metalhead dwelling much into the Underground I can tell you that the Chilean Metal Underground is being seen very positively by the Heavy Metal lunatics inhabiting this continent. Do you think that quite recent special status of the Heavy Metal bands coming out of Chile is well-deserved?

Yeah for sure, many guys from abroad are crazy about bands from Chile, Brazil, Colombia and other South American countries, but always more on the death/black/thrash scene, but that’s pretty normal as South America has always been the cradle for extreme metal and the place where many underground maniacs look for killer metal acts. As for the traditional heavy metal bands from Chile, of course is well deserved, our steel is sharp and proud! The quality of the bands have improved a lot over the years in my opinion.

The CD version is out for a while. Because AXE BATTLER’s early material was already out on vinyl I would expect the same with the debut. Are there any views for the “Axe Battler” wax treatment?

It is already out, we worked again together with Heavy Forces Records to release our full length in 550 copies, the release looks killer and sounds even better because the vinyl has a special mix different from the one we used for the CD that sounds much better in our opinion. You should grab a copy and blast it through your stereo at maximum volume and you will feel the difference.

If I have to be honest looking at your LP and CD cover-artworks without knowing the music I would rather order the former one as it reminds me the early 80’s covers while the new album’s cover seems to be too modern and too artificial (although not bad at all) for the music that you’ve included on your debut full-length. Any comments?

I have to say I don’t agree, maybe in the CD version you can’t appreciate the hand painted details of our cover artwork. If you look it at a larger scale, on the 12” gatefold cover, you will see what I mean. We got in touch with Mario Lopez, an illustrator from Guatemala who has done lots of artworks for metal bands and we got to say we are pretty satisfied with the final result, we hope to work with him again in the future.

Your debut “Axe Battler” contains 10 songs of which 4 are re-recorded. Did you think that “Endless Battles”, “The Wrath of My Steel”, “Minotaur’s Labyrinth” and “Killers of the Night” needed to be recorded in a better way than their EP versions or you’ve just chosen those tracks to be part of the debut ‘cause you had not enough material for a full-length? Maybe those 4 songs you thought were too good not to include them on the album?

We always wanted to include those songs in our full length because we think the sound on the mini album doesn’t make justice to them, except “Endless Battles” that was only included as a bonus track for the vinyl version of The Wrath of my Steel and now it’s officialy released. And yeah, we think those are too good and deserved to be on the album!

The band’s lyrics mainly deal with tales, myths, legends and JP Battler is the one responsible for this part of Axe Battler’s creativity. What are your main sources of inspiration for the lyrics? Any specific books, films? I also would like to know what “A Trilogy of Legends” is all about? Is it your impression on some Hellenic legend?

Yeah, we have lots of epic influences, in form of music, literature, movies... The Greek mythology thing comes by my side while I was pretty little, I had to read a lot of books about Greek heroes and then my interest on it grew through the years. I even had to fly a couple of years ago to Greece and visit the Acropolis, Delphi and visit Athens to satisfy my thirst for Greek mythology hahaha! We bring this influence to metal in the way that the Greek heroes had to face many challenges imposed by gods that had human behavior and were extremely decadent and driven by their passions, anger and feelings, sort of what we face everyday being part of a very shitty society ruled by brainless politicians, banks and entities that don’t give a shit about us, but we come with the victory at the end of the day. That’s what we want to reflect with our music. The trilogy in the album is about the three greatest Greek heroes on the myths, Perseus, Heracles and Theseus and we wanted to do it as a concept with the cover artwork (Perseus against the Gorgon) and our lyrical themes and in some way link it all for the album.

It is undeniable that the South American Metal and bands such as Pentagram Chile, Mortem, Parabellum, Anal Vomit or Violent Attack are growing in terms of popularity in other parts of the world. Do you think that something similar can happen to the more traditional Metal bands eventually?

I don’t know, sometimes I think our metal is a bit looked over the shoulder in other countries and don’t give us enough support. You see, it’s a bit difficult for a South American band to go on tour to Europe. We have enough quality for doing it and many bands does, but the resources are not there, would be cool if tour managers and maniacs abroad be brave enough to take South American forces to the other side of the lake. As I said in a previous question, South America is recognized for extreme metal and it’s not up to us to make it there. I think bands like COBRA from Peru, NOSFERATU from Brasil, ACERO LETALl from Chile or REVENGE from Colombia are good enough to be on tour around the world.

I’m gonna ask you now about your future plans. Are you working on the “Axe Battler” follow-up and do you expect your style will evolve quite a bit? Would you also consider some tiny releases such us singles or splits?

Well we have a split 7” with METAL GRAVE coming this year and the 7” that will be released through your label, but for sure we are working not only for this, but for a future second album. I think as a band we can’t make a copy of ourselves, for sure we are throwing out new ideas in rehearsals and working a lot on them and they may sound a bit different for what you heard previously, but keeping the spirit and the flame of traditional metal alive and burning, you can expect something good.

Thanks for your contribution. Anything you would like to add? I personally wish for more AXE BATTLER’s attacks!

I think this is the longest interview I ever answered, even larger than the one on Snakepit Zine, and for sure I had loads of fun answering it, thanks a lot for your interest in AXE BATTLER! We will attack soon, don’t worry! Always loud, always proud!